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Hi everyone, I am desperate for advice please. I have a four and a half year old border collie cross who I have adopted at about four months. She has always been lovable but stubborn and defiant, with recall problems until the last six months or so. However she has recently been unpredictable when she sees other dogs and has attacked two this week. Keeping her on a leash would not allow her the exercise she needs and muzzling would prevent from chase her ball. I don’t understand the cause of the aggression and would be grateful for any suggestions and how to deal with it. Many thanks.33C729CA-D0BB-4853-954A-3E0309C058CB.thumb.jpeg.7566cc955d8398ccfcbecdf6b64f95f3.jpeg7

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Welcome to the Boards.

There's another current thread about an aggressive dog and I'd suggest you find it and look at it as much of it will be relevant.

The one thing I'll repeat here is that if your dog is attacking other dogs you simply must not allow her to be loose anywhere when she may encounter another dog. You don't say where you live but most places have laws safeguarding people from others' aggressive dogs, and this includes injury to dogs as well as other people, and often even to other animals. Your dog could be taken from you and euthanized, especially with there being a history of aggression that you're aware of.

I'm also concerned about your use of words like "stubborn" and "defiant" to describe her. Most of the time when people use terms like this it really means that the dog doesn't understand what's wanted from them. Thinking in terms like this suggests an adversarial relationship that's not really conducive to a good working relationship between the dog and its owner. Too often we get what we project.

As for the cause of the aggression, it's important to understand that the underlying cause of aggression is almost always fear.

Understanding what's happening. i.e. the circumstances and behavior of the dog when this happens, would also be helpful.

 

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What Gentle Lake said.  Yes.

Also:  Have you had a vet check recently?  Telling the vet what's going on might alert him/her to any potential physical causes.  (For instance, thyroid problems can lead to some aggression issues.)

diane

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Thank you for the advice, I will make an appointment at my vet to give her a health check.

Possibly my use of the words stubborn and defiant have led you to believe we have a poor relationship. The truth is that she is very smart and will follow various commands for rewards. The problems arise when she is motivated by other influences, ie food. Unfortunately some well meaning people discard bread etc for the birds at various places we walk. Yesterday someone had thrown a packet of Weetabix which she saw before I could reach her and she gobbled six of them. Recall is ineffective with her where food is concerned, otherwise she’s reasonably good. This led to problems getting her back.

 

She is well fed and very fit and energetic but will eat anything she can scavenge, whether it be bread or a rabbit carcass.

I hope the vet examination will reveal thyroid problem as it is treatable! Apart from her couple of problems she is a perfect dog

 

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6 hours ago, Heather Dignam said:

...she is very smart and will follow various commands for rewards. The problems arise when she is motivated by other influences...

You've answered your own question, so to speak. You haven't managed to proof the cues sufficiently to overcome the distractions.

My 2 current dogs are some of the most intense food hounds I've ever had, but I can tell both of them to leave food. Even the one who struggles mightily with impulse control can be told to leave it. Both were taught this pretty quickly using only positive reinforcement training methods. It can be done, but it takes some training focus to achieve it.

There is one caveat to this, though. If my dogs find something they want to eat and have begun snarfing it down before I notice and can give the cue, then all bets are off and it'll be gone in a flash if it's small enough to go down in one bite. But if it's larger, a firm "leave it" will still work, though I may have to repeat it for my impulsive girl. But the point I'm making is that I also have some responsibility to be on the lookout so they don't find random things on their own.

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I really wish you could experience my dogs attitude to food. She can smell anything edible or inedible from a long way off. It could be bread, dead rabbit , bones or seaweed. It is not always possible to be aware of these temptations before she finds them.  Believe me, I do try to control these situations and, at home, can tell her to leave treats but she is well aware that I can’t catch her in the open. 

Although the recall situation is trying and frustrating, mainly because of her ingesting harmful things, I am rather more worried about her aggression. 

I will take her for a checkup and hope that this will give an indication of something that is treatable.  Believe me, I do love my dog and do my best to give her a good life and at the same time be a responsible owner.

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2 hours ago, Heather Dignam said:

Although the recall situation is trying and frustrating, mainly because of her ingesting harmful things, I am rather more worried about her aggression. 

As I said in my original reply, because of her aggression, she should never EVER be off leash anywhere where there's even the remotest possibility (i.e. nowhere) that you could ever run into another dog or animal that she can become aggressive with.

Nothing that's come up since that changes my original assessment. From what you've described this is a dangerous dog and if you're not careful you'll end up facing the consequences.

And it also pretty well eliminates the possibility that she'll be finding random food, which is the least of your problems, unless you just aren't paying attention.

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I heartily agree with what Gentle Lake said above. You are making a huge mistake letting this dog off leash.

You said yourself " she is aware I can't catch her in the open". You need to be aware that every single time she gets away from you because you let her off leash and cannot catch her, you are teaching her that she doesn't need to listen to you. No dog should ever under any circumstances be let off leash unless it has a solid, proofed, under-all-circumstances recall, and even then it can be risky just because dogs are dogs. A dog who is showing aggression toward others, dogs or people or anything else, should never be off leash. You are putting other people and their animals at risk and your own dog at the risk of being killed for the behavior of which you are well aware. 

And, although this is a much lesser issue than the aggression, your dog could pick up something that is poisonous, either deliberately so or not, and eat it before you could stop her, leading to heartbreak.  A piece of chocolate cake can kill a dog.

You can get your dog enough stimulation and exercise without putting her and others around you at such reckless risk. Training is great mental stimulation for dogs, especially border collies, who love to learn. It sounds as though you have already several things you need to work on for training, but you can also break that up and add some fun for you by teaching her tricks. A good training session wears out a border collie as well as a run does, and you can still take her for nice long walks, but under control and on leash.

We are here to support you in training and answer any questions you may have. This is a wonderful forum.

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What they all said - keep her on leash and, if needed, use a muzzle. Walking is excellent and healthy exercise, one that can keep a dog as fit as anything else. A dog does not need to be running loose when there is a recall problem or an aggression problem or the problem of ingesting dumped food. These are all unsafe situations for your dog, as well as any dangers posed to other animals. She may love her ball but that's also no reason to not leash her and muzzle her if needed. Get your problems solved (recall, aggression, and picking up discarded food), and look for a safe place for off-leash play and fetch as an alternative. If you can't find one, you may just have to change your routine. 

If people are routinely dumping food, that alone is a good reason for leashing - cooked chicken bones can splinter and cause damage, for instance, when ingested. Also, if people are discarding food that your dog might pick up, who is to know if that food might not have something harmful in it, like something that is toxic to dogs? Better to manage your dog to avoid a potential tragedy. 

I have three dogs (well, four right now as we have a long-term "guest" dog) and living in a rural area, my dogs are generally used to off-leash walks and playtime. But when we go visit family in suburbia or down near the beach, the local laws and situations require leashing whenever outside, and so that's what we do. It's not easy giving up what *you* like to do and what *your dog* likes to do, but you have to adapt your management to your situation, and that's what's called for for several reasons here. 

Best wishes at the vet visit and dealing with these issues! 

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On 1/5/2019 at 1:17 AM, Heather Dignam said:

Recall is ineffective with her where food is concerned, otherwise she’s reasonably good. This led to problems getting her back.

The fact that she's highly food motivated works in your favor! Use it to your advantage in working on that recall. Condition her to know that *everytime* you call her name or give the recall command she will get food (training bits) from you, guaranteed. 

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^^^ Yes. For your training bits use Really Great Stuff, tiny bits of it. Most dogs love any kind of real meat or cheese. Shredded cheese, or tiny bits of chopped meat are great. You can buy some of these, fairly pricey, or you can make it yourself.

I know it's hard to accept the reality of the situation. I was someone who came late to that realization, and I regret leaving it so long.  Your dog will not die if not allowed to run free. Your dog might be put to sleep if allowed to run free and it attacks another dog or injures a human. It's stark and painful, but believe me, there are ways to live happily with a dog who doesn't go off-leash.

Have you talked with a trainer about a) how to keep her exercised and her brain engaged while safely on leash and b) the aggression? Please consider it. 

Good luck,

Ruth & Gibbs

 

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5 minutes ago, urge to herd said:

^^^ Yes. For your training bits use Really Great Stuff, tiny bits of it. Most dogs love any kind of real meat or cheese. Shredded cheese, or tiny bits of chopped meat are great. You can buy some of these, fairly pricey, or you can make it yourself.

I know it's hard to accept the reality of the situation. I was someone who came late to that realization, and I regret leaving it so long.  Your dog will not die if not allowed to run free. Your dog might be put to sleep if allowed to run free and it attacks another dog or injures a human. It's stark and painful, but believe me, there are ways to live happily with a dog who doesn't go off-leash.

Have you talked with a trainer about a) how to keep her exercised and her brain engaged while safely on leash and b) the aggression? Please consider it. 

Good luck,

Ruth & Gibbs

 

I really wish you could experience my dogs attitude to food. She can smell anything edible or inedible from a long way off. It could be bread, dead rabbit , bones or seaweed. It is not always possible to be aware of these temptations before she finds them.  Believe me, I do try to control these situations and, at home, can tell her to leave treats but she is well aware that I can’t catch her in the open. 

Although the recall situation is trying and frustrating, mainly because of her ingesting harmful things, I am rather more worried about her aggression. 

I will take her for a checkup and hope that this will give an indication of something that is treatable.  Believe me, I do love my dog and do my best to give her a good life and at the same time be a responsible owner.

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One of my now-deceased dogs, Shoshone, had come from a really awful situation, part of which was being semi-starved by her owner. She weighed about 20 lbs when she came into a rescue, and around 30 or so after they'd had her for about 4 months. She was super smart and could scent like a bloodhound. She found things to scarf down that my other 2 didn't even notice.

At the time, I had 3 border collies, and walked them together. Shoshone required the most attention, and I managed it.

If it's aggression you're worried about, talk with a trainer. Don't let her off leash, and don't let your attention off of her. It's very simple.

A check-up at the vet is a good idea, but the odds are that this is something you have to manage by keeping her on leash.

Ruth & Gibbs

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16 minutes ago, Heather Dignam said:

I really wish you could experience my dogs attitude to food. She can smell anything edible or inedible from a long way off. It could be bread, dead rabbit , bones or seaweed. It is not always possible to be aware of these temptations before she finds them.  Believe me, I do try to control these situations and, at home, can tell her to leave treats but she is well aware that I can’t catch her in the open. 

Although the recall situation is trying and frustrating, mainly because of her ingesting harmful things, I am rather more worried about her aggression. 

I will take her for a checkup and hope that this will give an indication of something that is treatable.  Believe me, I do love my dog and do my best to give her a good life and at the same time be a responsible owner.

I'm not sure what the point of copying this exact same post is. It certainly doesn't demonstrate that you're taking any of our comments to heart and in fact suggests quite the opposite.

If that's the case, please don't waste any more of our time.

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Thank you all, I am trying to find out how to contact a lady I spoke to a couple of months ago with a dog with similar problems. The dog is also a cross and is identical to mine in appearance, they are so alike. This dog had a go at mine a while ago but although it looked nasty, as any disagreement does, no harm was done. The lady was planning to take her dog to a behavioural specialist as she was concerned that he was very aggressive (much worse than mine). I am hoping to see her and consult the expert if she has had good results. Unfortunately a lot of behaviourists are pretty ineffective.

I am a responsible owner and want to understand the cause of the problem rather than depriving her of the opportunity to run. She is fine with dogs she has met previously unless they have attacked her, which has happened six times in total. She particularly detests border terriers, I suspect because that was the first one to attack her soon after I adopted her. 

But again, thank you for the advice and I will update when I have a positive outcome 

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19 minutes ago, Heather Dignam said:

Unfortunately a lot of behaviourists are pretty ineffective.

A lot of self-proclaimed "behaviorists" are ineffective, but I don't think that's true of the trained and certified professionals, especially veterinary behaviorists who may also be able to help you access your dog's thinking brain with medications for a while. These are the people we're recommending you consult.

19 minutes ago, Heather Dignam said:

I am a responsible owner and want to understand the cause of the problem rather than depriving her of the opportunity to run.

1) You are NOT a responsible owner if you continue to let her run loose before the aggression issues have been addressed and corrected. In fact, you are quite the opposite if you endanger other animals when you know she's aggressive.

2) Depriving her of the opportunity to run loose is the only responsible way to protect other dogs and animals from her (and potentially any humans who may get in the way) and it may well be the only way to protect your dog from being euthanized when -- not if, when  -- she hurts another animal.

It's time to take the blinders off before it's too late.

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33 minutes ago, urge to herd said:

^^^ Yes. For your training bits use Really Great Stuff, tiny bits of it. Most dogs love any kind of real meat or cheese. Shredded cheese, or tiny bits of chopped meat are great. You can buy some of these, fairly pricey, or you can make it yourself.

I know it's hard to accept the reality of the situation. I was someone who came late to that realization, and I regret leaving it so long.  Your dog will not die if not allowed to run free. Your dog might be put to sleep if allowed to run free and it attacks another dog or injures a human. It's stark and painful, but believe me, there are ways to live happily with a dog who doesn't go off-leash.

Have you talked with a trainer about a) how to keep her exercised and her brain engaged while safely on leash and b) the aggression? Please consider it. 

Good luck,

Ruth & Gibbs

 

I really wish you could experience my dogs attitude to food. She can smell anything edible or inedible from a long way off. It could be bread, dead rabbit , bones or seaweed. It is not always possible to be aware of these temptations before she finds them.  Believe me, I do try to control these situations and, at home, can tell her to leave treats but she is well aware that I can’t catch her in the open. 

Although the recall situation is trying and frustrating, mainly because of her ingesting harmful things, I am rather more worried about her aggression. 

I will take her for a checkup and hope that this will give an indication of something that is treatable.  Believe me, I do love my dog and do my best to give her a good life and at the same time be a responsible owner.

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To Gentle Lake. The copying of my previous post was unintentional. Obviously, I would have thought!

I have not stated that I have allowed my dog off lead since the post but expressed a desire to get to the root of the problem.

It is obvious that you have come to the conclusion that I am reckless and unfit to own a dog which is not the case otherwise I would not have sought advice. So apologies for your time you believe I have wasted, I won’t trouble you further.

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With the second repeat post coming up again -- and something similar occurring in some else's thread -- I'm beginning to believe there's a glitch in the Boards' hosting platform. So my apologies for criticizing that.

21 hours ago, Heather Dignam said:

I have not stated that I have allowed my dog off lead since the post...

No, you haven't. But you also haven't told us that you have kept her on leash and will continue to do so, so you can't blame anyone for not being able to know things you haven't said.

And if you'll notice, I said you're not being responsible IF yada, yada, yada. If you're actually keeping her on leash and will continue to do so until she's no longer aggressive, then obviously it doesn't apply to you. But you gave no indication that that was the case.

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Heather - You have not made it at all clear that you were even willing to try keeping her on leash until you can get any of the several problems solved, so it is easy to see where GentleLake (and others) may have felt that they were wasting time being concerned and giving advice as it did seem (at least to some of us) that you were not even interesting in trying that management option while pursuing a vet visit and any other option you might have to get help. Some very experienced and very caring people have given great advice, and I can understand their frustration if they feel you are not willing to give it a try. And I am sure we are all relieved to hear that you are keeping her on leash currently. 

We can only go by what we read here, so we all need to be clear in order to make this discussion worthwhile. 

Again, I wish you the best in addressing these issues and resolving your problems. It is possible that you might find that the only safe resolution is the use of the leash whenever and wherever you are that there might be other dogs or undesirable (to you, but not to the dog) edibles. 

PS - I read it that your dog has been attacked six times by other dogs. If that's the case, I would not be the least bit surprised that she has become aggressive. Many dogs become fear-aggressive with a lot less trauma than that. And they certainly do recognize breeds. We had a Border Collie cross who was jumped by a German shepherd dog while he was working cattle. Even though he was largely and functionally blind in the latter half of his life, he could detect a GSD or cross by scent, and would react, for the rest of his life. 

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Heather: Sorry you are having a glitch with the board's posting. But stick around if you can, as this is a very fine resource. sometimes people here, including myself, come on strong, but it is only because we care passionately about these dogs.

One thing I think you should really think about is this desire to "get to the root of the problem", or understand the Why of her behavior. The truth is, the reasons behind it are not anywhere near as important as training the behaviors out of her is.  Additionally, surely you know that there is no way that you can ever know for sure what the reasons are. You cannot get inside the dog's head, (unfortunately), and she cannot tell you.

You may discover something during your training that leads you to believe that *this* is the reason, and you address *this*, and the training moves along. But that still doesn't prove that *this* is the reason. You won't ever be sure of the reason. Don't spend your time worrying about or trying to figure out reasons and causes, and use that energy instead to focus on changing her behavior before she gets you and herself into trouble you can't get out of.

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